A Test to Judge How Good Your Parents Were – Free Ebook

Strangely, and rather awkwardly, it seems
no human being can ever really grow up sane

unless it has been loved very deeply by someone
for a number of years in its early life.

But we’re still learning what parental love
might actually involve. So how good were your

parents? Here are eight principles of good
parenting you can use to grade them.

  • Attunement
    A loving parent gets down to the child’s

level – at times literally, dropping to their
height when addressing them – in order to

see the world through their eyes. They understand
that a very young child cannot easily fit

in with external demands and that, in the
early days, they must be prioritised and placed

at the center of things, not in order to ‘spoil’
them, but in order to give them a chance to


  • ‘Small Things’
    Loving parents understand that their young

offspring’s lives revolve around details
that are, by any adult measure, very minor.

Toddlers will feel enormously happy because
they can dig their nails into some putty or

have a chance to wack their spoon into some
peas with energy or say ‘bah’ very loudly;

and they will feel extremely sad because pet
rabbit lost one of its buttons or a page in

a favourite book now has a tear in it. The
good enough parent feels sufficiently resourceful

inside itself not to hold it against the child
that it is making a very big deal out of so-called

‘nothing’. It will follow the child in
its excitement over a puddle and it in its

grief over an uncomfortable sock. It understands
that the child’s future ability to be considerate

to other people and to handle genuine disasters
will be critically dependent on having had

its ample fill of sympathy for a range of
age-appropriate sorrows.

  • Forgiveness
    A loving parent will know how to put the best

possible interpretation on behaviour that
might seem to others unfortunate and grating:

the small child isn’t ‘a troublemaker’,
but it has of course been very upset by the

arrival of its sibling. It isn’t ‘antisocial’
but it does find a small circle of familiar

people especially soothing. It isn’t a ‘nightmare’
but it does surely need to go to bed very

soon. This capacity for imaginative kindly
explanations will go on to mould the workings

of the child’s own conscience; it will learn
the art of self-forgiveness. It won’t have

to torture itself for its mistakes. It won’t
suffer the ravages of self-loathing or ever,

when it messed up badly, be tempted to take
its own life.

  • Strange Phases
    The loving parent will feel sufficiently sane

to allow a child to be weird for a while,
knowing that so-called weird is part of normal

development. It won’t get flustered that
the child has decided to pretend it is an

animal or wants to eat only red-coloured foods
or has an imaginary friend living in the tree

at the end of the garden. The adult will have
faith in sanity emerging – and in the wisdom

of exploring a lot of possible options before
choosing to settle on reason. It will be able

to remain calm over some intense tantrums
and obsessions, it won’t need to shut down

irreverence at every turn, it will be patient
around low moods and unruffled by adolescent


the parent won’t assign labels to the child
that might fix it in a role it was only trying

out. It will be wary of telling a child that
it is ‘the angry one’, ‘the little philosopher’

or even ‘the kind one’: it will allow
the child the luxury of picking its own identity.

  • Clinginess
    The good parent knows that children may well

cling for a long while, and will never dismiss
this natural need for reassurance in pejorative

terms. It won’t tell the child to buck up
and be a ‘good little man’ or ‘young

lady who can make me proud’. It will know
that those who end up securely attached and

able to tolerate absence are those who were
originally allowed to have as much dependence

and connection as they needed. There will
be few requests to be ‘brave’ at the school


  • Perfection
    A good parent won’t set themselves up as

impossibly glamorous or remote, a figure whom
a child might be tempted to idealise and ruminate

over from afar. They will know how to be present
and very ordinary around the house; dignified

perhaps but also on occasion ratty, forgetful,
silly and greedily keen to have too much desert.

The good parent will know that parental quirks
and flaws are there to remind a child to reconcile

itself to its own humanity – and also eventually
to leave home and get on with their own lives.

  • Boringness
    A good parent will know how to appear very

boring. It will understand that what a child
chiefly needs is a source of reliable calm,

not fireworks and excitement (it has enough
of these inside its own mind). It should be

there, in the same place, saying more or less
the same things, for decades. It should take

care to be predictable and to edit out its
surprising moods, the child doesn’t need

a full picture of every perturbance and temptation
coursing through its carers’ minds. The

parent accepts that ‘mummy’ or ‘daddy’
are roles, not full representations; it should

be the privilege of every child not to have
to know its parents in complete detail.

  • Unreciprocated Love
    The good parent isn’t looking for a balanced

relationship. It is happy to give unilaterally.
It doesn’t need to be asked how its day

was or what it thinks of the government’s
new policy on insurance. It knows that a child

should be able to take a parent substantially
for granted. The parent’s reward for all

their work won’t ever be direct; it will
arrive by noting, in many years time, that

their child has developed into a very good
parent themselves.

Put simply: love is the considerate, tender,
hugely patient behaviour displayed by an adult

over many years towards a child who cannot
help but be largely out of control, confused,

frustrating and bewildered – in order that
it might over time grow into an adult who

can take its place in society without too
much of a loss of spontaneity, without too

much terror and with a basic trust in its
own capacities and chances of fulfilment.

It should be a matter of global consternation
that, despite our many advances, we are still

only at the dawn of knowing how to ensure
that we all have the loving childhoods

we deserve.

How to overcome your childhood is a book that teaches us how character is developed, the concept of emotional inheritance, the formation of concepts of being good or bad and the impact of parental styles on the way we choose adult partners

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